New Delhi (AP) – India will send a manned flight into space by 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Aug. 15 as part of India’s Independence Day celebrations.
He said India will become the fourth country after Russia, the United States and China to achieve the feat and its astronaut could be a man or a woman. The space capsule that will transport India’s astronauts was tested a few days earlier.
Rakesh Sharma was the first Indian to travel in space, aboard a Soviet rocket in 1984. As part of its own space program, active since the 1960s, India has launched scores of satellites for itself and other countries and successfully put one in orbit around Mars in 2014.
It hopes to showcase its technological ability to explore the solar system while also using research from space and elsewhere to solve problems at home. The $1 billion-a-year space program has already helped develop satellite, communication and remote-sensing technologies and has been used to gauge underground water levels and predict weather in the country prone to cycles of drought and flood.
India won independence from British colonialists in 1947. Modi’s 80-minute speech, broadcast live from the historic Red Fort in New Delhi, comes months before national elections.